AVUSD neglects special needs Black males?
Mothers accuse district
PALMDALE, Calif.—A group of mothers are speaking out against the Antelope Valley Union High School District for allegedly neglecting to properly educate their children with special needs.
The parents say that there may be a dysfunctional pattern of African American boys being mistreated in the district.
Cynthia Beverly, a resident of Palmdale by way of Compton, is a mother of four, two of whom are currently in high school. Her son, Antone Presley, is 17-years-old and is a student at Palmdale High School. He is officially diagnosed with behavioral problems, and is a special needs student who requires different classroom settings and a more concentrated environment conducive for learning, said his mother. He also has an individualized education program (IEP), which is a plan that describes the student’s abilities and needs, and establishes how young people must be taught more effectively.
But Beverly claims Palmdale High School has not been following that plan for her son, who has problems with anger management. Instead, his special ed teacher allegedly disregards his IEP and creates trouble for him. According to his IEP, Presley is supposed to regularly see the school psychologist, however, Beverly said he has never seen that individual.
He’s also allowed to take breaks to retract his anger to prevent an outburst.
The student was recently sent to juvenile hall for a threat he allegedly made against a campus security guard.
According to Beverly, on Sept. 23, Presley, who had completed in-school suspension, understood that as in the past when like incidents occurred, he was required to be in an isolated classroom. But security guards asked him to go to his special ed class instead. Attempting to avoid more trouble from his instructor, Presley asked the guards to call his teacher to verify his proper location. The guards refused and supposedly threatened to drag Presley to class, if he did not comply. The incident fueled his anger.
When the guard grabbed his shoulder, Presley jerked back. The guards restrained and handcuffed him. Presley, became agitated by the incident demanded one of the officers to let him go so he could “blaze” (fight) him.
The guard, thought Presley had a gun because of the threat, even after he was cuffed and searched.
When Beverly arrived on the campus, she noticed the handcuffs were unusually tight and that her son’s wrists were swollen. She said it took five minutes to get the cuffs off because they were so tight. She then took him to the hospital for contusions and abrasions on his wrists and hand. Four days later he was sent to jail.
Due to a previous offense, Presley was on probation. Because of the school’s reports, including a record of a total 17 suspension days assigned in three weeks and a threat of expulsion, he violated his probation. However, Beverly said the school decided not to take any further disciplinary actions and will not press charges. But his probation will be prolonged.
Beverly is not alone. DeShawn Tatum is also a mother of a special needs student who is an African American male. Her son is now 24-years-old, but is still suffering the repercussions of his high school experience. She said similar issues arose, while her son attended Palmdale High School and throughout elementary.
“He was pushed through the Palmdale School District (and AVUSD) without them (fulfilling) their end of the IEP requirements … He was skipped through the entire school district; then it became a behavioral issue,” Tatum said.
She received several calls daily from teachers saying he was distracting the class. Tatum said if the IEP was followed properly, he would not have had problems in the classroom. Her son also may have dyslexia, but the school refused to test him for it.
“I came through the district. I was born and raised here ... and it felt good to tell my kids stories (about high school). But then the disappointment comes in, when all of these other things begin to happen. It upsets me a lot ,because it’s changed so much.”
Tatum claims that she took her son’s case to Sacramento, yet nothing was done. She said his teachers did not properly follow her son’s IEP and the proper disciplinary actions were not taken. Her son has not completed his high school education.
According to Tatum, her son had issues completing school because the administration did not want to give him the help he needed.
“They decided, when he was in 11th grade that he shouldn’t even get his education (but should) just go to camp or Job Corps,” she said. “I couldn’t understand that because here he is in the 11th grade, and an IEP is effective until the child’s 22nd birthday. So why is it that you’ve already given up on his education?”
The issues continue to persist with her 10th grade son who is currently attending Palmdale High School. She said although he does not have special needs, campus staff seem to constantly target him. One of his teachers marks him absent despite his being present in class. He is also in a math course he is too advanced for, however administration will not put him in the proper class.
Another mother, Virgie Jones, is currently dealing with issues within the district as well. School authorities restrained her son, during a fight while his opponent was able to strike blows. Jones’ son is also a special needs student who faces challenges in the classroom and with school authorities.
The mothers are currently gathering with other parents who have experienced difficulties with the school districts in the Antelope Valley to address the issues that have historically plagued African American students in the area.
Beverly has so far met with Superintendent David Vierra, Ph.D., and the Director of Special Education, Johan Mekel regarding her son. However, she is not satisfied with the lack of results.
The AVUSD could not be reached for comments, because school was closed on Wednesday due to furlough days.
Overrepresentation of African American males in special education is an old, yet unchanging issue. Year in and year out, a disproportionate number of Black male students are enrolled in special education courses for various reason, but mostly behavioral issues and learning disabilities.
Within the Antelope Valley Union High School District, African Americans make up 21 percent of the total student population, yet is the second largest group enrolled in special education, according to the California Department of Education.
LANCASTER, Calif.—As previously reported, mothers in the Antelope Valley are beginning a movement for school district reform. Headed by Cynthia Beverly, a mother of four, the group of parents and community members are demanding the Antelope Valley school districts properly educate their children.
According to the mothers’ reports, their African American students are being mistreated and improperly instructed throughout the valley, particularly students in special education.
COMPTON, Calif. — A fire broke out today in a commercial building in Compton, possibly compromising power lines, county fire officials said.
The blaze was reported at 3:24 p.m. in the 5000 block of Compton Avenue, according to the Los Angeles County Fire Department.
The structure was engulfed in flames and continued to burn as of 4 p.m., fire officials said.
There may be power lines down behind the burning building, fire officials said. Southern California Edison were dispatched to the scene.
COMPTON, Calif. — Former Compton Fire Department Deputy Chief Marcel Melanson is scheduled to be arraigned Friday on grand theft and arson charges related to a fire at the department’s headquarters.
Melanson is suspected of stealing thousands of dollars worth of Motorola radios, selling them online and intentionally setting the Dec. 11, 2011 fire to destroy evidence of the thefts, Steve Whitmore of the sheriff’s department said.
Two forums will be held to give voters an opportunity to hear the viewpoints of candidates in runoff elections in Compton.
The first is May 23 from 6-8 p.m. in the Compton City Council Chambers, 205 S. Willowbroook Ave.
The second will follow on May 25 at noon, also in the City Council Chambers.
The forums will feature mayoral runoff candidates Aja Brown versus former mayor Omar Bradley; and Second District Councilwoman Lillie Dobson facing off against challenger Isaac Galvan.